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Member of the Department of History  


Ruben studied history of the sciences and humanities at Utrecht University and wrote a MA thesis on the reception and dissemination of Chinese medicine in early modern Europe. He worked at the University Museum and Dutch Railway Museum before starting a PhD within the NWO Vidi project ‘Vital Matters’ at Groningen University. His PhD project ‘Blood, Sweat and Tears’ investigated how the chemistry of bodily fluids helped establish a new medical system in eighteenth-century Europe.

Since 2018 Ruben works as curator of the medical collections at Erasmus University Medical Centre, Rotterdam. Now he has joined the Institute for Medical Humanities, Durham University, to conduct his NWO Rubicon postdoc project (2019-2022) on deafness and hearing difference.


The aim of my new research project ‘Deafness in Transition’ is to uncover cultural experiences and medical perceptions of deafness in early modern Europe. I focus on both social and medical perceptions of deafness, which includes both the profoundly deaf and those with hearing difficulty as the result of disease, accident, old age, or changing social and cultural requirements. This provides a new and more inclusive vintage-point to look at deaf history.

In conversation with deaf or hard-of-hearing people and audiologists today, the project seeks to present an eighteenth-century model of deafness as a helpful alternative to reconsider today’s challenge of inclusion. I will set up private-public partnerships to develop a permanent exhibition in the Erasmus University Medical Centre, Rotterdam. This critical space will be designed to stimulate reflection and push for discussion among patients, clinicians, and students.

Research interests

  • History of science and medicine
  • Medical humanities
  • Bodily fluids
  • Deafness and hearing
  • Material culture


Authored book

Book review

  • Verwaal, Ruben E. (2021). The Fabrica of Andreas Vesalius: A worldwide descriptive census, ownership, and annotations of the 1543 and 1555 editions. Centaurus 63(4): 814.
  • Verwaal, Ruben E. (2021). Fluid Bodies and Bodily Fluids in Premodern Europe.
  • Verwaal, Ruben E. (2020). Per imperatief plakkaat: Overheid en pestbestrijding in de Republiek der zeven Verenigde Nederlanden. Tijdschrift voor geschiedenis 133(4): 748-750.
  • Verwaal, Ruben E. (2016). Cradle of Chemistry: The Early Years of Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh. Isis 107(3): 634-635.
  • Verwaal, Ruben E. (2016). Uroscopy in Early Modern Europe. Sixteenth Century Journal 47(3): 699-700.
  • Verwaal, Ruben E. (2015). Het journaal van Joannes Veltkamp (1759-1764): Een scheepschirurgijn in dienst van de admiraliteit van Amsterdam; Commercial Visions: Science, Trade, and Visual Culture in the Dutch Golden Age. Tijdschrift voor geschiedenis 128(4): 665-667.
  • Verwaal, Ruben E. (2014). De machinemens: De machinemetafoor in de geneeskunde en in het denken over ziekte en gezondheid. Studium 7(2): 113-114.
  • Verwaal, Ruben E. (2014). De geest van Boerhaave: Onderzoek in een kil klimaat. Studium 7(2): 112-113.

Chapter in book

Journal Article

Translated Chapter in Book

  • Verwaal, Ruben E. (trans.) (2021). '保持と排泄 (Retention and Excretion) '. In 老いと健康の文化史西洋式養生訓のあゆみ. ノエフ,リナ (ed.). 原書房. 175-200